I’m a feminist because . . . (Some #YesAllWomen links and my thoughts)

Before we get to the meat of this post, I need to share some background. (If that’s too much, it’s okay. Go and browse the #YesAllWoman tweets instead. If you read nothing else today, read that.)

Last week a man in Isla Vista California went on a killing spree. While men and women lost their lives before the gunman shot himself, the attack was fueled by a hatred of women. Building from what he considered unforgivable rejections, this man went out and killed people. In the wake of the attack and the ensuing tragedy, many online discussions began about misogyny and the fear women are often forced to deal with.

Here are some articles about the shooting and the ensuing #YesAllWoman tweets and its discussions (the tag was started by a very brave woman on twitter. She has since locked her account due to backlash and unwanted attention so I won’t link back.)

These links aren’t comprehensive because the tweets and articles are basically literally updating faster than I can keep up but this is a good cross-section of coverage and hopefully a good starting point if you haven’t had a chance to follow the tweets closely yet:

It has already been pointed out, and I’ll say it again: Of course Rodger isn’t like all men. But he is like some men. And that is terrifying. And even if it does make people uncomfortable, that’s why it needs to be talked about.

Reading through the #YesAllWomen tweets has been powerful. It’s also made my heart heavy seeing the stories and the truth in them but also seeing the backlash.

What hurts–what makes me a little ill–is that I didn’t even have the vocabulary to talk about these things for a long time both abstractly and personally. Because women in media are so rarely shown pushing back against situations that make them feel small or unsafe. And because it’s still not accepted. Even with the smart, engaged, supportive guys I’ve called friends–I feel like sometimes when I talk about things like being a woman and knowing it’s handicap in some job searches (and trust me, I did sooo many job searches in the last few years) and other areas, I feel like my guy friends might think I’m kidding or overstating.

And that’s gotten me thinking about feminism. For a while I wasn’t going to write this post because reading the #YesAllWomen tweets make everything I have to say here so redundant and it all feels so obvious. But then I started talking to my smart friend Sarah (who is also a librarian and lovely) and she wondered if maybe it wasn’t obvious all the time and I thought, maybe, that it should be said.

For a lot of years I didn’t identify as a feminist. Not because I didn’t want to but because it felt like I wasn’t allowed to–what had I done to deserve to be a feminist? Now, of course, I realize that’s the completely wrong way to look at it. The only reason I was even taking women’s studies courses in college was because I was so close to a minor. But then during my seminar in feminist theory–taught by a man who acknowledged his privilege and some of the absurdity of his teaching the seminar by admitting he never walked the street alone in fear of being raped–it all clicked. Of course I’m a feminist.

Here’s why:

  • I believe in equal rights and equal pay for equal work.
  • Because there is still a smart boys/pretty girls dichotomy and that’s stupid.
  • I’m a feminist because I want to reclaim the term “chick lit” and have it stop being seen as something less than.
  • Because women should never be made to feel small or less for how they look, what they wear, or anything they do.
  • I spent years being afraid of the old man who lived upstairs because he insisted on kissing me when I was trick or treating with other kids in the building and no one even reacted. Because I felt cheap and dirty after he did. Because of the panic I felt the one time I was alone with him in an elevator and he started to move closer while I wondered what I could do when, thankfully, the doors opened and someone else came on. Because I once walked a friend to the corner in winter with no coat rather than be alone in the lobby with him. Because when I finally realized I could take charge and not be a part of this, he was offended that I stopped speaking to him or acknowledging him.
  • I’m a feminist because I shouldn’t have to be ready with a fake name when strange men approach me on the street. I shouldn’t have to smile politely and share that fake name while they keep pace with me until I can run across the street to get away.
  • Because no one decides what I wear or how I look except me.
  • Because so many things that men think are harmless or even flattering are often terrifying.
  • I’m a feminist because I’m tired of men telling me to smile.
  • I’m tired of being called “sweetie” by men at the supermarket.
  • Because when I was in high school a coworker was promoted ahead of me despite my having more experience. Because he was a guy. (And older, but that’s a different story for a different post.)
  • Because patriarchy and misogny are complete bullshit.
  • I’m a feminist because I’m only now realizing getting hit on by the ice cream man was never a funny anecdote. (I was 15 and stopped on my way home to get ice cream for myself and my mom. The man in the truck went on to ask me where I lived so that he could drop by some time at night. I told him the complete opposite direction from where I lived. But as I headed home, I wondered if I should have taken a different route. Would he follow me?)
  • Because no one should have to be afraid of walking alone in the dark, but so many women are.
  • I’m a feminist because I’m embarrassed and outraged that my physics professor in college thought it was okay to trap me against a computer with his body while he explained a lab procedure.
  • I’m a feminist because the media is broken and still spends more time talking about how women look than about their accomplishments.
  • I’m a feminist because we still have so far to go.
  • I’m a feminist because I believe the world can be better.

I’ll leave you again by saying even if you don’t want to sift through this blog of text, take a minute and go read the #YesAllWoman tweets instead. Every woman should be reading it to know they aren’t alone and their feelings are valid. Men should be reading it to better understand. And then maybe, with the conversation started, things can start moving in a new direction.